Minnesota Teacher of Year visits Indiana counterpart, Huntington

Minnesota 2012 Teacher of the Year Katy Smith (left) tours Huntington with Indiana 2012 Teacher of the Year Melanie Park on Thursday, Jan. 17. Photo by Lauren M. Wilson.

Huntington County had a special visitor on Thursday, Jan. 17 .

Minnesota's 2012 Teacher of the Year, Katy Smith, toured the community with Indiana's 2012 Teacher of the Year, Melanie Park, before giving a presentation at Crestview Middle School titled "Parenting in the 21st Century."

Smith says her presentation was one that "any community member would find valuable."

To bring her presentation to Huntington Smith worked with Park, who recently began a year-long sabbatical from teaching at Riverview Middle School to focus on statewide educator outreach initiatives, serving as the Indiana Department Of Education's Teacher in Residence for the 2012-2013 school year.

Park says of Smith, "She is my gift back to the community."

The presentation highlighted three main topics: Play, media and community dimension.

Smith says she wants to "recapture play for kids."

During her presentation she discussed the types of toys that young children should be playing with - ones that she says do not "already play." On the contrary, she recommends toys that allow children to "engage" and toys that children can "be in charge of."

Smith also addressed the topic of children and video games. She says, "If I could do one great thing before I die it would be to change the rating systems that video games use."

She says children have been desensitized to violence, and she hopes to catch parents before they "move into that world."

Regarding community dimension, Smith says it is a concept that has changed entirely over the past 40 years.
"When I was a kid I knew the community would parent me," she states. In today's society, Smith says parenting has become more personal and adults are no longer connected.

Smith says a more united style of parenting, where it is okay for another adult to correct your child, is like a "security blanket" for children - something she feels children today would benefit from.

Her main message is, "We design childhood," she says.

Smith says parents should not always solve problems with what is easy, fast or popular, but by asking, "What do my children need?"

In her professional life, Smith holds several bachelors and masters degrees in social work, adult learning and parent education. Currently, she is pursuing a master's degree in early childhood and public policy and advocacy.

She has worked at Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) in Minnesota for 25 years.

ECFE is a program for all Minnesota families with children from birth to age 5.

The program, offered through the Minnesota public school districts, offers parent-child learning.

Smith says it is a 39-year-old program that helps parents and children alike address issues of child development through parent-child interaction, parent education, and children's activity time.

Smith also conducts home visits through "Baby Connections," where she spends time in-home with newborn babies and their mothers.

As the Minnesota 2012 Teacher of the Year, she says she realized she wanted to "save childhood for kids."

"It has been a treasured experience," she states.

"We do what we can for schools and children."

To learn more about Smith, read her blog at www.minnesotateacheroftheyear.blogspot.com.

Complete caption:
Minnesota 2012 Teacher of the Year Katy Smith (left) tours Huntington with Indiana 2012 Teacher of the Year Melanie Park on Thursday, Jan. 17. Smith spent time in the community before giving a presentation that evening at Crestview Middle School titled "Parenting in the 21st Century."